Sepsis is known as the ‘silent killer’. It is a rare but very serious complication of a routine infection, and can have fatal consequences if not diagnosed or if mis-diagnosed. Currently there is a “Just Ask: Could It Be Sepsis” campaign being promoted on a national basis- at Ison Harrison, through the experiences of our clinical negligence department, we know it is extremely important that people understand the condition and what they can do to prevent it.

What is Sepsis?

The name ‘silent killer’ is very appropriate because generally, little is known about Sepsis. Its symptoms can be dismissed as a routine flu or other everyday illness, when in reality something far more serious could be taking hold.

Sepsis is also referred to as ‘blood poisoning’. This comes from the fact that Sepsis is a reaction to an infection and results in the body attacking its own organs and tissues. Common sites of infection that can lead to Sepsis are the lungs, the urinary tract, the abdomen and pelvis. You might also develop Sepsis while already in hospital, as a reaction to recent surgery, after having a urinary catheter fitted or if your stay in hospital has been long term.

People are particularly vulnerable to Sepsis if their immune system is weak, i.e. if they have HIV or Leukaemia, or if they are very young or very old. You may also be susceptible if you are pregnant, you suffer from diabetes, are on a mechanical ventilator or if you are genetically prone to infection.

If caught relatively early, the condition can be treated. If not it could be life-threatening, and this could occur if the symptoms are ignored, or if a medical professional mis-diagnoses the illness- mainly because the symptoms often follow those for flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection.

So what are the symptoms of Sepsis?

Sepsis is particularly common in small children and the symptoms of the condition don’t immediately suggest there is a life-threatening condition involved. The symptoms in children involve:

  • Breathing very fast
  • Having a fit or convulsions
  • The skin is mottled, blueish or pale
  • The child has a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • The child is lethargic or difficult to wake
  • The child feels abnormally cold to touch

Childhood illnesses are always a huge concern to parents, particularly in younger children, and those under five years old may also be not feeding, may be vomiting repeatedly and maybe haven’t passed urine in over 12 hours. Should any of these occur, parents should seek medical help immediately.

Adults can be affected slightly differently. A handy ‘SEPSIS’ checklist has been designed to easily and speedily help you or a loved one make a quick diagnosis at home before seeking immediate medical attention. So do you have:

S – Slurred speech or confusion

E – Extreme shivering or muscle pain

P – Passing no urine in a day

S – Severe breathlessness

I –  It feels like you’re going to die

S – Skin is mottled or discoloured?

Although these symptoms can be easily dismissed, it is important to take them seriously whether the patient is a child or an adult, to ensure that an early diagnosis and a timely administering of antibiotics takes place. The consequences of a mis-diagnosis can include limb amputation, organ failure and septic shock. Long term effects can include anxiety, memory loss or fatigue, and ultimately death, often through multiple organ failure.

Our clinical negligence experts have seen a number of cases of Sepsis and can advise on your immediate course of action if you feel that you have these symptoms, but the gravity of your condition has not been recognised. It is very important you seek this help if you have any concerns, so contact us today.

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